Entries with label drug trafficking .

Bolivia has established itself in the role of distributing Peruvian cocaine and its own cocaine for consumption in South America and export to Europe.

  • In 2019, Martin Vizcarra's government eradicated 25,526 hectares of coca cultivation, half of the estimated total area of plantations.

  • Peru had a record potential cocaine production of 509 tonnes in 2018; Bolivia's was 254 tonnes, one of the highest historically, according to the US.

  • The US accused Morales towards the end of his term of office of having "manifestly failed" to meet his international obligations with his 2016-2020 counter-narcotics plan.

Coca eradication operation in Alto Huallaga, Peru [project CORAH)

Coca crop eradication operation in Alto Huallaga, Peru [project CORAH]

report SRA 2020 / Eduardo Villa Corta [PDF version].

Since Peru's national plans against coca cultivation began in the 1980s, eradication campaigns have never reached what is known as the VRAEM (Valley of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers), a difficult-to-access area in the centre of the southern half of the country. Organised crime operates in this area, especially the remnants of the old Shining Path guerrillas, now dedicated to drug trafficking and other illicit businesses. The area is the source of 64% of the country's potential cocaine production. Peru is the world's second largest producer, after Colombia.

The government of President Martín Vizcarra carried out a resolute policy of suppressing illicit crops in 2019. The eradication plan (project Especial de Control y Reducción del Cultivo de Coca en el Alto Huallaga or CORAH) was applied last year to 25,526 hectares of coca crops (half of the existing ones), of which 750 were in the VRAEM (operations were carried out in the areas of Satipo, Tambo River and Alto Anapati, in the Junín region).

These actions should result, when the figures for 2019 are presented, in a reduction in total coca cultivation and potential cocaine production, thus breaking the increase experienced in recent years. According to the latest report International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), from the US State Department's department , which closely monitors this illicit activity in the countries of the region, in 2018 there were 52,100 hectares of coca in Peru (compared to 44,000 in 2016 and 49,800 in 2017), whose extent and quality of cultivation could generate a record production of 509 tonnes of cocaine (compared to 409 in 2016 and 486 in 2017). Although in 2013 there was even more area cultivated (59,500 hectares), then the cocaine potential stood at 359 tonnes.

From Peru to Bolivia

This increase in recent years in the generation of cocaine in Peru has consolidated Bolivia's role in the trafficking of this drug, since in addition to being the world's third largest producer (in 2018, 32,900 hectares were under cultivation, with a potential production of 254 tonnes of narcotic substance, according to the US), it is a transit zone for cocaine of Peruvian origin.

The fact that only around 6% of the cocaine reaching the US comes from Peru (the rest comes from Colombia) indicates that most Peruvian production goes to the growing market in Brazil and Argentina and to Europe, and therefore its natural outlet is through Bolivia. Bolivia is thus considered a major "distributor".

Some of the drugs arrive in paste form and are refined in Bolivian laboratories. The goods are brought into Bolivia using small planes, which sometimes fly at less than 15 metres above the ground and drop the cocaine packages in uninhabited rural areas; they are then picked up by elements of the organisation. The movement is also carried out by road, with the drugs camouflaged on cargo roads, and to a lesser extent using Lake Titicaca and other waterways connecting the two countries.

Once across the border, drugs from Peru, along with those produced in Bolivia, travel to Argentina and Chile, especially through the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz and the Chilean border crossing of Colchane, or enter Brazil - directly or through Paraguay, using for example the crossing between the Paraguayan town of Pedro Juan Caballero and the Brazilian town of Ponta Pora - for consumption in South America's largest country, whose volume has climbed to second place in the world, or to reach international ports such as Santos. This port, which is Sao Paulo's outlet to the sea, has become the new hub of the global narcotics trade, from which almost 80 per cent of Latin America's drugs leave for Europe (sometimes via Africa).

Production in Bolivia has been growing again since the middle of the last decade, although in the Bolivian case there is a notable difference between the often divergent figures provided by the United States and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Both estimates agree that there was a previous decline, attributed by the La Paz government to the so-called "rationalisation of coca production", which reduced production by 35 per cent and adjusted cultivation areas to those permitted by law in a country where traditional uses of coca are allowed.

However, the Coca Law promoted in 2017 by President Evo Morales (his political degree program originated in the coca growers' unions, whose interests he later continued to defend) protected an extension of production, raising the permitted hectares from 12,000 to 22,000. The new law covered an increase that was already occurring and encouraged further excesses that have far exceeded the volume required for traditional uses, which programs of study from the European Union puts at less than 14,700 hectares. In fact, the UNODC estimated in its 2019 report that between 27% and 42% of the coca leaf grown in 2018 was not sold in the only two local markets authorised for this purpose, indicating that at least the rest was destined for cocaine production.

For 2018, the UNODC determined a production of 23,100 hectares, in any case above what is allowed by law. The US data reported 32,900 hectares, an increase of 6% over the previous year, and a potential cocaine production of 254 tons (2% more).

Sixty-five percent of Bolivian production takes place in the Yungas area, near La Paz, and the remaining 35 percent in Chapare, near Cochabamba. In the latter area, crops are expanding, encroaching on the Tipnis natural park -reservation . The park, which runs deep into the Amazon, suffered major fires in 2019: whether intentional or not, the destroyed tropical vegetation could give way to clandestine coca plantations.



After Morales

The report of the 2020 US State department highlights the greater anti-drug commitment of the Bolivian authorities who succeeded the Morales government in November 2019, which had maintained "inadequate controls" over coca cultivation. The US considers that Morales' 2016-2020 anti-drug plan "prioritised" actions against criminal organisations rather than combating coca growers' production that exceeded the permitted volume. Shortly before leaving office in September, Morales was accused by the US of having "manifestly failed" to comply with international obligations at subject on drug control.

According to the US, the transitional government "has made important strides in drug interdiction and extradition of drug traffickers". This increased control by the new Bolivian authorities, together with the determined action of the Vizcarra government in Peru, should lead to a reduction in coca cultivation and cocaine production in both countries, and therefore in its export.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Articles Latin America

Regional security in the Americas has been the focus of concern over the past year in Venezuela. We also review Russia and Spain's arms sales to the region, Latin America's presence in peacekeeping missions, drugs in Peru and Bolivia, and homicides in Mexico and Brazil.

Igor Sechin, director Rosneft executive, and Nicolás Maduro, in August 2019 [Miraflores Palace].

▲ Igor Sechin, director Rosneft executive, and Nicolás Maduro, in August 2019 [Miraflores Palace].

report SRA 2020 / summary executive[PDF version].

Throughout 2019, Latin America had several hotspots of tension - violent street protests against economic measures in Quito, Santiago de Chile and Bogotá, and against political decisions in La Paz and Santa Cruz, for example - but as these conflicts subsided (in some cases, only temporarily), the constant problem of Venezuela as the epicentre of insecurity in the region re-emerged.

With Central American migration to the United States reduced to a minimum by the Trump administration's restrictive measures, it has been Venezuelan migrants who have continued to fill the roadsides of South America, moving from one country to another, and now number more than five million refugees. The difficulties that this population increase entails for the host countries led several of them to increase their pressure on the government of Nicolás Maduro, approving in the OAS the activation of the Inter-American Reciprocal Treaty of attendance (TIAR). But that did not push Maduro out of power, nor did the assumption in January 2019 by Juan Guaidó of the position as president-in-charge of Venezuela (recognised by more than fifty countries), the failed coup a few months later or the alleged invasion of Operation Gideon in May 2020.

While Maduro may appear stabilised, the geopolitical backdrop has been shifting. The year 2019 saw Rosneft gain a foothold in Venezuela as an arm of the Kremlin, once China had stepped back as a credit provider. The risk of not recovering everything it had borrowed meant that Russia acted through Rosneft, benefiting from trading up to 80 per cent of the country's oil. However, US sanctions finally forced the departure of the Russian energy company, so that in early 2020 Maduro had no other major extra-hemispheric partner to turn to than Iran. The Islamic republic, itself subject to a second sanctions regime, thus returned to the close relationship it had maintained with Venezuela in the first period of international punishment, cultivated by the Chávez-Ahmadinejad tandem.

This Iranian presence is closely watched by the United States (coinciding with a deployment of the Southern Command in the Caribbean), which is always alert to any boost that Hezbollah - an Iranian proxy - might receive in the region. In fact, 2019 marked an important leap in the disposition of Latin American countries against this organisation, with several of them classifying it as a terrorist organisation for the first time. Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Honduras approved such a declaration, following the 25th anniversary in July of the AMIA bombing attributed to Hezbollah. Brazil and Guatemala pledged to do so shortly. Several of these countries have drawn up lists of terrorist organisations, which allows them to pool their strategies.

The destabilisation of the region by status in Venezuela has a clear manifestation in the reception and promotion of Colombian guerrillas in that country. issue In August, former FARC leader Iván Márquez and some other former leaders announced, presumably from Venezuelan territory, their return to arms. Both this dissident core of the FARC and the ELN had begun to consolidate at the end of the year as Colombian-Venezuelan groups, with operations not only in the Venezuelan border area, but also in the interior of the country. Both groups together have some 1,700 troops in Venezuela, of which almost 600 are Venezuelan recruits, thus constituting another shock force at Maduro's service.

Russia's exit from Venezuela comes at a time when Moscow is apparently less active in Latin America. This is certainly the case in the field of arms sales. Russia, which had become a major exporter of military equipment to the region, has seen its sales decline in recent years. While during the golden decade of the commodity boom several countries spent part of their significant revenues on arms purchases (which also coincided with the spread of the Bolivarian tide, better linked to Moscow), the collapse in commodity prices and some governmental changes have meant that in the 2015-2019 period Latin America is the destination of only 0.8 per cent of Russia's total arms exports. The United States has regained its position as the largest seller to the rest of the continent.

Spain occupies a prominent position in the arms market, as the seventh largest exporter in the world. However, it lags behind in the preferences of Latin American countries, to which it sells less defence materiel than it would be entitled to in terms of the overall volume of trade it maintains with them. Nevertheless, the level of sales increased in 2019, after a year of particularly low figures. In the last five years, Spain has sold 3.6% of its global arms exports to Latin America; in that period, its main customers were Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

Better military equipment might suggest greater participation in UN peacekeeping missions, perhaps as a way of keeping an army active in a context of a lack of regional deployments. However, of the total of 82,480 troops in the fourteen UN peacekeeping missions at the beginning of 2020, 2,473 came from Latin American countries, which represents only 3 per cent of the total contingent. Moreover, almost half of staff was contributed by one country, Uruguay (45.5% of regional troops). Another small country, El Salvador (12%), is the next most committed to missions, while large countries are under-represented, notably Mexico.

In terms of public safety, 2019 brought the good news of a reduction in homicides in Brazil, which fell by 19.2% compared to the previous year, in contrast to what happened in Mexico, where they rose by 2.5%. If in his first year as president, Jair Bolsonaro scored an important achievement, thanks to the management of the super security minister Sérgio Moro (a success tarnished by the increase in accidental deaths in police operations), in his first year Andrés Manuel López Obrador failed to fulfil one of his main electoral promises and was unable to break the upward trend in homicides that has invariably occurred annually throughout the terms of office of his two predecessors.

In terms of the fight against drug trafficking, 2019 saw two particularly positive developments. On the one hand, coca crops were eradicated for the first time in the VRAEM, Peru's largest production area. Given its difficult accessibility and the presence of Shining Path strongholds, the area had previously been excluded from the operations of subject. On the other hand, the change of presidency in Bolivia meant, according to the US, a greater commitment by the new authorities to combat illicit coca cultivation and interdict drug shipments coming from Peru. In recent years Bolivia has become the major cocaine distributor in the southern half of South America, connecting Peruvian and Bolivian production with the markets of Argentina and especially Brazil, and with its export ports to Europe.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Latin America Reports

Venezuelans leaving the country to seek a livelihood in a host country [UNHCR UNHCR].

Venezuelans leaving the country to look for a livelihood in a place of refuge [UNHCR UNHCR].


[download the complete PDF]


report SRA 2020 / presentation

The Covid-19 pandemic has radically altered security assumptions around the world. The emergence of the coronavirus moved from China to Europe, then to the United States and then to the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Already economically handicapped by its dependence on commodity exports since the beginning of the Chinese slowdown, Latin America suffered from the successive restrictions in the different geographical areas, and finally also entered a crisis of production and consumption and a health and labour catastrophe. The region is expected to be one of the hardest hit, with effects also in the field of security.

This annual report , however, focuses on American regional security in 2019. Although in some respects it includes events from the beginning of 2020, and therefore some early effects of the pandemic, the impact of the pandemic on issues such as regional geopolitics, state budgetary difficulties, organised crime and citizen security can be found at report next year.

To the extent that other security developments in 2019 have been somewhat transitory in recent months, Venezuela has remained the main focus of regional insecurity over the past year. At report we analyse Iran's return to the Caribbean country, after first China and then Russia preferred not to see their own economic interests harmed; we also note the consolidation of the ELN and part of the ex-FARC as binational Colombian-Venezuelan groups.

In addition, we highlight the progress made in the first time that Hezbollah has been designated by several countries as a terrorist organisation, group , and we provide figures on the drop in Russian arms sales to Latin America and the relative lack of marketing in the region of the defence material produced by Spain. We also quantify the contribution of Latin American troops to UN peacekeeping missions, as well as Bolsonaro's success and AMLO's failure in the evolution of homicides in Brazil and Mexico. In terms of drug trafficking, 2019 saw the first coca crop eradication operation in the VRAEM, the most complicated area of Peru in the fight against drugs.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defence Latin America Reports

The U.S. is keeping an eye on the innovation of methods that could also be used to introduce terrorist cells or even weapons of mass destruction

In the last ten years, the proliferation of submersible and semi-submersible vessels, which are difficult to detect, has accounted for a third of drug transport from South America to the United States. The incorporation of GPS systems by the cartels also hinders the global fight against narcotics. A possible use of these new methods for terrorist purposes keeps the United States on its toes.

Narco-submarine found in Ecuador's jungle in 2010

▲ Narco-submarine found in the jungle of Ecuador in 2010 [DEA]

article/ Marcelina Kropiwnicka

Drug trafficking to large consumer markets, especially the United States and Europe, is particularly innovative: the magnitude of the business means that attempts are made to overcome any barriers put in place by States to prevent its penetration and distribution. In the case of the United States, where the illicit arrival of narcotics dates back to the 19th century – from opium to marijuana to cocaine – the authorities' continued efforts have succeeded in intercepting many drug shipments, but traffickers are finding new ways and methods to smuggle a significant volume of drugs into the country.

The most disturbing method in the last ten years has been the use of submersible and semi-submersible vessels, commonly referred to as narco-submarines, which allow several tons of substances to be transported – five times more than a fishing boat did – evading the surveillance of the coast guard [1]. Satellite technology has also led traffickers to leave loads of drugs at sea, then picked up by pleasure boats without arousing suspicion. These methods make reference letter recent reports from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Through the waters of Central America

For many years, the usual way to transport drugs out of South America to the United States has been by fishing boats, speedboats, and light aircraft. Advances in airborne detection and tracking techniques have pushed drug traffickers to look for new ways to get their loads north. Hence the development of the narco-submarines, whose issue, since a first interception in 2006 by the US authorities, has seen a rapid progression.

This means of transport is one of the reasons why since 2013 there has been a 10% increase in trafficking on the drug route that goes from Colombia (a country that produces 93% of the cocaine consumed in the United States) to Central America and Mexico, from where the shipments are introduced into the United States. According to the DEA, this corridor now accounts for an estimated 93 percent of the movement of cocaine from South America to North America, compared to 7 percent of the route that seeks the Caribbean islands (mainly the Dominican Republic) to reach Florida or other places along the U.S. coast.

For a while, rumors spread among the U.S. Coast Guard that drug cartels were using narco-submarines. Without having seen any of them so far, the agents gave him the name 'Bigfoot' (as an alleged ape-like animal that would inhabit forests in the US Pacific is known).

The first sighting occurred in November 2006, when a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat detected a blurred shape in the ocean, about 100 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. When agents approached, they discovered three plastic tubes emerging from the water, which came from a submersible craft that was making its way two meters below the surface. Inside they found three tons of cocaine and four men armed with an AK-47 rifle. The Coast Guard dubbed it 'Bigfoot I'.

Two years later there would be a 'Bigfoot II'. In September 2008, a U.S. Navy Coast Guard frigate seized a similar aircraft 350 miles from the Mexico-Guatemala border. The crew consisted of four men and the cargo was 6.4 tons of cocaine.

By then, U.S. authorities estimated that more than 100 submersibles or semi-submersibles had already been manufactured. In 2009, they estimated that they were only able to stop 14 percent of shipments and that this mode of transport supplied at least a third of the cocaine reaching the U.S. market. The navies of Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala have also seized some of these narco-submarines, which in addition to having been located in the Pacific have also been detected in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Made by hand in the jungle, perhaps the most striking episode was that of having found one of them in the interior of Ecuador, in the waters of a river. 

Its technical innovation has frequently surprised counternarcotics officials.  Many of these self-propelled narco-submarines are up to fifteen meters long, made of synthetic materials and fiberglass, and have been designed to reduce radar or infrared detection. There have also been models with GPS navigation systems to be able to refuel and receive food at agreed appointments along the way.

GPS Tracking

The development and the generalization of GPS has also helped drug traffickers to introduce greater innovations. One procedure, for example, has been to fill a torpedo-shaped container – like a submersible, but this time without a crew – with drugs, attached to a buoy and a signal emitter. The container can hold up to seven tons of cocaine and is attached to the bottom of a ship by a cable. If the ship is intercepted, it can simply drop the container deeper, and then be retrieved by another vessel thanks to the satellite locator. This makes it extremely difficult for authorities to capture the drugs and apprehend traffickers.

The GPS navigation system is also used to deposit drug loads at points in U.S. territorial waters, where they can be picked up by pleasure boats or a small number of people. group of people without arousing suspicion. The package containing the cocaine is coated with several layers of material and then waterproofed with a subject foam. The package is placed inside a duffel bag that is deposited on the seabed to be later retrieved by other people.

As indicated by the AED in its report from 2017, "This demonstrates how drug trafficking organizations have evolved their methods of carrying out cocaine transactions using technology." And quotation the example of organizations that "transport kilos of cocaine in waterproof packages to a predetermined location and attach it to the ocean floor to be later removed by other members of the organization who have GPS location," which "allows members of drug trafficking organizations to compartmentalize their work, separating those who do the sea transport from the distributors on land."


Cocaine travel from South America to the U.S. in 2017

Cocaine Journey from South America to the United States in 2017 [DEA]


Terrorist risk

The possibility that these hard-to-detect methods could be used to smuggle weapons or could be part of terrorist operations worries U.S. authorities. Retired Vice Admiral James Stravidis, former head of the U.S. Southern Command, has warned of the potential use of submersibles especially "to transport more than just narcotics: the movement of cash, weapons, violent extremists or, at the worst end of the spectrum, weapons of mass destruction."

This risk was also referred to by Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich when, as commander of the group South of work A joint Inter-Agency Agency, it faced the rise of submersibles. "If you can transport ten tons of cocaine, you can transport ten tons of anything," he told The New York Times.

According to this newspaper, the stealth production of homemade submarines was first developed in Sri Lanka, where the group Tamil Tiger rebels used them in their confrontation with government forces. "The Tamils will go down in history as the first terrorist organization to develop underwater weapons," Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry said. In 2006, as the NYT states, "a Pakistani and a Srinlancan provided Colombians with blueprints to build semi-submersibles that were fast, quiet, and made of cheap materials that were commonly within reach."

Despite that origin, ultimately written request In light of the Tamil rebels, and the terrorist potential of the submersibles used by drug cartels, Washington has reported no evidence that the new methods of drug transportation developed by organized crime groups are being used by extremist actors of a different nature. However, the U.S. is keeping its guard up given the high rate of shipments arriving at their destination undetected.



[1] REICH, S., & Dombrowski, P (2017). The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Pperations in the 21st Century. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY. Pg. 143-145

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defense Articles

July 1 presidential election does not open a serious discussion on the fight against drug trafficking

The 'iron fist' that Felipe Calderón (PAN) began in 2006, with the deployment of the Armed Forces in the fight against drugs, was extended in 2012 by Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI). In these twelve years the status has not improved, but rather increased violence. In this 2018 elections none of the main candidates presents a radical change from model; the populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Morena) proposes some striking measures, but continues to count on the work of the Army.

Mexican president on Flag Day, February 2018.

▲The Mexican president on Flag Day, February 2018 [Presidency of the Republic].

article / Valeria Nadal [English version].

Mexico faces a change of sexenio after closing 2017 as the most violent year in the country's history, with more than 25,000 homicides. How has this status been reached ? Can it begin to be resolved in the coming years?

There are several theories about the beginning of drug trafficking in Mexico, but the most widely accepted argues that Mexican drug trafficking was born when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States between 1933 and 1945, promoted the cultivation of poppy in Mexican territory with the veiled intention of promoting the production of large quantities of morphine to relieve the pain of U.S. soldiers during World War II. However, drug trafficking was not a serious national problem until the 1980s; since then, cartels have multiplied, violence has increased and crime has spread throughout Mexico.

The new phase of Felipe Calderón

In the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico, the presidency of Felipe Calderón marked a new stage. candidate of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), Calderón was elected for the six-year term 2006-2012. His program included declaring war on the cartels, with a "mano dura" (iron fist) plan that translated into sending the Army to the Mexican streets. Although Calderón's speech was forceful and had a clear goal , to exterminate insecurity and violence caused by drug trafficking, the result was the opposite because his strategy was based exclusively on police and military action. This militarization of the streets was carried out through joint operations combining government forces: National Defense, Public Security, the Navy and the Attorney General's Office (PGR). However, and despite the large deployment and the 50% increase in the expense in security, the strategy did not work; homicides not only did not decrease, but increased: in 2007, Calderón's first full presidential year, 10,253 homicides were registered and in 2011, the last full year of his presidency, a record 22,409 homicides were registered.

According to agreement with the high school of Legal Research (IIJ) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in that record year of 2011 almost a quarter of the total Mexican population over 18 years of age (24%) was assaulted in the street, suffered a robbery in public transport or was a victim of extortion, fraud, threats or injuries. The fees of violence was so high that it surpassed those of countries at war: in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 there was a average of 12 murders per day per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Mexico that average reached 18 murders per day. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the number of complaints about this indiscriminate wave of violence was quite high leave: only 12% of the victims of drug-related violence reported. This figure is probably related to the high rate of impunity (70%) that also marked Calderón's mandate.

Peña Nieto's new approach

After the failure of the PAN in the fight against drug trafficking, in 2012 Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was elected president. With this, this party, which had governed for uninterrupted decades, returned to power after two consecutive six-year periods of absence (presidencies of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón, both from the PAN). Peña Nieto assumed the position promising a new approach , contrary to the "open war" proposed by his predecessor. He mainly focused his security policy on the division of the national territory into five regions to increase the efficiency and coordination of operations, on the reorganization of the Federal Police and on the strengthening of the legal framework . However, the new president maintained the Army's employment in the streets.

Peña Nieto's results in his fight against drug trafficking have been worse than those of his predecessor: during his term, intentional homicides have increased by 12,476 cases compared to the same period in Calderón's administration and 2017 closed with the regrettable news of being the most violent year in Mexico to date. With just months to go before the end of his six-year term, and in a last-ditch effort to right the wrongs that have marked it, Peña Nieto brought about the approval of the Internal Security Law, which was voted by Mexico's congress and enacted in December of last year. This law does not remove the military from the streets, but intends to legally guarantee that the Armed Forces have the capacity to act as police, something that previously only had the character of provisional. According to the law, the military participation in daily anti-narcotics operations is not to replace the Police, but to reinforce it in those areas where it is incapable of dealing with drug trafficking. The initiative was criticized by critics who, while recognizing the problem of the scarcity of police resources, warned of the risk of an unlimited military deployment over time. Thus, although Peña Nieto began his term in office trying to distance himself from Calderón's policies, he has concluded it by consolidating them.


Annual intentional homicides in Mexico

source: Executive Secretariat, Government of Mexico


What to expect from the 2018 candidates

Given the obvious ineffectiveness of the measures adopted by both presidents, the question in this election year is what anti-drug policy the next president will adopt, in a country where there is no re-election and therefore every six-year presidential term means a change of face. The three main candidates are, in the order of the polls: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena); Ricardo Anaya, of the PAN coalition with the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), and José Antonio Meade, of the PRI. López Obrador came close to reaching the presidency in 2006 and 2012, both times as candidate of the PRD (he had previously been leader of the PRI); he then created his own party.

Meade, who represents a certain continuity with respect to Peña Nieto, although in the electoral campaign he has adopted a more anti-corruption tone, has pronounced himself in favor of the Internal Security Law: "It is an important law, it is a law that gives us framework, that gives us certainty, it is a law that allows the participation of the Armed Forces to be well regulated and regulated". Anaya has also positioned himself in favor of this law, since he considers that a withdrawal of the Army from the streets would be "leaving the citizens to their fate". However, he supports the need for the Police to recover its functions and strongly criticizes the lack of responsibility of the Government in subject of public security, alleging that Mexico has entered a "vicious circle that has become very comfortable for governors and mayors". In any case, neither Meade nor Anaya have specified what turn they could take that would be truly effective in reducing violence.

López Obrador, from a left-wing populist stance, is a major change with respect to previous policies, although it is not clear how effective his measures could be. Moreover, some of them, such as granting amnesty to the main drug cartel leaders, seem clearly counterproductive. In recent months, Morena's candidate has changed the focus of his speech, which was first centered on the eradication of corruption and then focused on security issues. Thus, he has said that if he wins the presidency he will assume full responsibility for the country's security by integrating the Army, the Navy and the Police into a single command, to which a newly created National Guard would be added. He has also announced that he would be the only one to assume the single command: "I am going to assume this responsibility directly". López Obrador pledges to end the war against drugs in the first three years of his mandate, assuring that, together with measures of force, his management will achieve economic growth that will translate into the creation of employment and the improvement of welfare, which will reduce violence.

In conclusion, the decade against drug trafficking that began almost twelve years ago has result been a failure that can be measured in numbers: since Calderon became president of Mexico in 2006 with the slogan "Things can change for the better", 28,000 people have disappeared and more than 150,000 have died as a result of the drug war. Despite small victories for Mexican authorities, such as the arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman during the Peña Nieto presidency, the reality in Mexico is one of intense criminal activity by drug cartels. From the electoral proposals of the presidential candidates, no rapid improvement can be expected in the next six years.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defence Articles Latin America